Reshaping the Domestic Nexus is a multi-staged, ESRC funded project bringing together academics from leading research groups within the Universities of Sheffield (Watson, Sharp, Evans, Foden – now at Keele, Jackson) and Manchester (Browne, Hoolohan, Southerton, Warde). The researchers have been at the forefront of developing new ways of understanding how householders’ routine activities end up demanding resources, including of energy, food and water. Within Reshaping the Domestic Nexus the team works to make academic understandings of household sustainability useful for informing actual policy processes with our diverse policy and non-academic project partners.
The concept of the nexus of water, energy and food has increasing traction in research and policy, confronting the interdependencies between these fundamental resources. Most work in this field focuses on the supply of these resources. Reshaping the Domestic Nexus starts from concern with how demand for these resources and their associated service infrastructures are constituted with a focus on everyday practices happening in domestic kitchens, other spaces within the home, and interconnections with wider resource and waste streams. We summarise our thoughts on the opportunities for policy interventions in household sustainability in this 2018 open access article in The Geographical Journal.
The first stage of the project was an ESRC Nexus Network funded workshop series (2015), which extended the Nexus concept to examine the dynamics of consumption at the domestic (household) scale. We explored this field through a series of workshops, taking place in Sheffield, Manchester and London. This stage of the project was led by Matt Watson with Peter Jackson and Liz Sharp at the University of Sheffield, and Dale Southerton, David Evans (then UoM now Sheffield), Alan Warde and Ali Browne at the University of Manchester. The workshops series showed that there is an array of existing knowledge that can inform understanding WEF service demand as emergent from social practices. The workshops also worked through the promising affinities and synergies between practice research and the emphasis of nexus thinking on interdependencies and relationships, across scales.
The second stage Reshaping the Domestic Nexus was led by Matt Watson (PI) at the University of Sheffield with Liz Sharp (Co-I), David Evans (Co-I), Mike Foden (RA) also at the University of Sheffield, and Ali Browne (Co-I) at the University of Manchester. This 1 year project was funded by the ESRC Nexus Network. Reshaping the Domestic Nexus engaged with four policy partners: BEIS, DEFRA, FSA and Waterwise. In this stage of the project we produced four reports, in consultation with our partner organisations, that reframed a ‘live’ policy challenge for our project partners. Each report (available here) presents a common ‘Change Points’ approach but focuses in on a different dynamic of what goes on in home kitchens.
The third iteration of this project ‘Change Points for the Nexus at Home: A toolkit for developing policy for water-energy-food consumption in UK Homes’ is funded by the ESRC Impact Accelerator Account (IAA) at the University of Manchester. It is led by Ali Browne (PI) and Claire Hoolohan (Co-I) at UOM, with strategic input from the academic (Watson, Evans, Sharp, Foden – CoIs) and non-academic (Defra, FSA, Waterwise, Northumbrian Water Group, Actant Consulting, Artesia Consulting) advisory boards and wider stakeholders (WWF-UK, WRAP). Taking place from January to October 2018, the intention is to co-design a toolkit (workshop process, facilitator workbook) which will support policy makers and other non-academic stakeholders interested in developing more nuanced policy processes and business practices around household sustainability. After a range of ‘Beta Testing’ with project partners in June/July 2018 (on the topics of water efficiency and food waste), the toolkit will be soft launched in October/November 2018.
A fourth stage of impact and applied research funding has been secured through the University of Sheffield. In 2018-2019 the toolkit will ‘go on tour’, and be applied to a range of ‘live’ water, energy, food and waste policy challenges. Any stakeholders interested in implementing the toolkit to define a policy challenges related to WEF and household sustainability are asked to get in touch with one of the current project team (Browne, Evans, Hoolohan, Sharp, Watson).
This multi-staged research project is based on the growing awareness that we need different ideas for tackling issues like resource consumption. Practice theory is one field that is generating new ideas. It informs a large and growing field of empirical research generating distinctive ideas and evidence in relation to resource consumption in the home. This project builds on the research teams’ existing activity in bringing practice theory research and other approaches to household sustainability into dialogue with policy makers and other stakeholders, to enable a step change in the effectiveness with which everyday practice research can inform the increased effectiveness of policy and intervention.